The Next Neil Armstrong May Be Chinese as Moon Race Intensifies – by Bruce Einhorn, Justin Bachman, Hannah Dormido and Adrian Leung (Bloomberg News – July 17, 2019)

Fifty years after Neil Armstrong took his one small step, there’s a renewed race to put human beings back on the moon⁠—and the next one to land there may send greetings back to Earth in Chinese.

China, which didn’t have a space exploration program when Apollo 11 landed in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969, is planning a series of missions to match that achievement. China could have its own astronauts walking on the moon’s surface and working in a research station at its south pole sometime in the 2030s.

On the way there, they may stop over at a space station scheduled for assembly starting next year. Those ambitions trouble President Donald Trump’s administration, which is locked in trade and technology-transfer disputes with China that raise fears of a new Cold War like the one between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that spawned the Apollo program in the 1960s.

With the U.S.-China rivalry extending into the cosmos, Trump wants to create a military branch called the Space Force and accelerate NASA’s timetable for returning to the moon. “Make no mistake about it: We’re in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s, and the stakes are even higher,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in March.

Chinese officials are just as emphatic about the importance of the space program to their national identity. A moon shot is intended to open the heavens for more-distant missions as China strives to be a dominant space power by the time the Communist Party celebrates its centennial anniversary of rule in 2049.

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